I'll be honest, when I first found out that we were going to be staying in the house for the foreseeable future (currently, L.A. is sheltering in place until April 19th), with no ability to have playdates or go to school, I felt a bit unsure as to how our family was going to make it work. While I recognize that we have a lot of things working in our favor—a fairly large house with a backyard, the tremendous privilege of being able to work from home, and a daughter who happens to be fiercely independent and adores "reading" on her own (she is still learning!)— I still want to avoid solely relying on increased "screentime" to keep Sloan busy during the day. As a result, we've come up with a few simple, but creative children's entertainment ideas that have worked well for us and that I wanted to share with other parents balancing childcare and working from home right now. Unfortunately, I'm not able to offer any magical formulas for keeping your kid engaged for a full hour (anyone else develop a newfound appreciation for the power of teachers?!), but these are some of the activities that Sloan and I have both enjoyed doing together:
I got this idea from a mom friend who posted it on her Instagram. Funny enough, I didn't learn until later that we'd interpreted it in an entirely different way from how she'd originally intended. In her version, she hides plastic letters, A through Z, around the house for her kids to find and then place on the matching letter on a DIY alphabet board. This totally works, but we had Sloan find small items around our house that began with the letter indicated on the board, so she grabbed a pair of shoes for "S," a fork for "F," etc. She certainly relied on us for some of the letters (we had a tough time with X, Y, and Z), but it provided her with a fun and educational activity that lasted about thirty minutes.
You'll learn pretty quickly that as soon as you give a bunch of five-year-olds access to their friends' faces over Zoom, chaos ensues. At the beginning of our first online playdate, which we now do every morning at 10 AM, each kid began shouting random greetings and questions at each other, all at the same time. Fortunately, a mom swooped in to provide some order, by asking the kids a question that they each had to answer one at a time, like "What's the meal you've loved most since getting to stay at home?" Each question had a positive spin, treating the at-home time as an opportunity rather than a requirement. At the end, each mom read a book of their kid's choice. Now that we've been doing the calls for a few days, Sloan and her classmates are able to run them (mostly) on their own. It's so endearing to walk into the room and hear her catching up with her girlfriends.
The other day, I initially planned on grabbing chalk and going outside to our driveway to color with Sloan, but instead snuck out a few minutes earlier to surprise her with a homemade obstacle course.
The element of surprise goes a really long way right now—from setting up a mini "Sloan's Bakery" in our kitchen, to making an over-the-top bubble bath in place of her regular nightly bath. She was thrilled to come outside to find a prepared course for her. While it started out as a pretty simple game, it quickly grew to include lava, a scorpion, and a snake thanks to Sloan's incredible imagination. And, of course, I was right there jumping and dodging all of them alongside her. When the rain washed away our course a few days later, she welcomed the opportunity to create a new one with me! And the more time we're both spending outside and moving, the happier I realize we both are.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but Sloan and I have been doing a lot of baking projects together. After taking stock of what I have in my pantry, I choose a recipe for the two of us to make together and take out all of the ingredients ahead of time. Sometimes, I even take things one step further and measure out everything ahead of time, empowering her to take ownership of the baking process from there. I then walk her through the step-by-step directions for making easy things like chocolate chip cookies together.
Another thing we've been doing with Sloan is giving her more responsibilities around the house. This week, she started giving the cats dry food, playing with them, keeping her room clean, and putting her own dishes in the dishwasher. Not only does this keep her busy, but it also helps keep our quarantine space as comfortable and clean as possible.
This is another simple activity, but one that Sloan loves since it exercises her imagination. If you have access to a yard, park, or outdoor space, have your child collect things a fairy might enjoy. We give Sloan a bowl and she runs around outside gathering flowers, sticks, and leaves. Then we put some water and glitter into the bowl to turn it into "fairy juice," to her delight. It doesn't take too much time, but is a perfect example of how simple an activity can be to entertain.
I'll continue posting ideas here and to Instagram, but I'd love to use the comments in this post as a place to collect some of our favorite games and ideas you've found useful for entertaining kids! x